Japanese chemical company Kao made its name in the late 19th century as Japan’s first domestic soap manufacturer. The company’s soap, named Kao Sekken, cleaned up despite the dominance of import soaps and eventually established a foothold in the Japanese consumer marketplace.
The success of Kao’s soap helped fuel the launch of the company’s other personal and home-care products, from moisturizers and shampoos to oils and detergents.
Today, Kao is a leading chemical company that has expanded its reach far beyond Japan, with more than 33,000 global employees across its consolidated companies and more than $11 billion in annual net sales.
Among Kao’s global businesses is Quimikao, which was established near Guadalajara, Mexico, more than 35 years ago.
Today Quimikao produces products for the North and South American, Asian and Australian markets.
The company primarily produces cationic surfactant derivatives of fatty acids for use in a wide range of products, from fabric softeners and fragrance compounds to asphalt emulsifiers and corrosion inhibiters used in petroleum.
Quimikao recently decided to establish a new plant in Mexico to meet growing demand for nitrile, a chemical base for liquid detergents, fabric softeners and other products.
Rather than designing the new facility from the ground up, Quimikao opted to replicate an existing Kao Japanese plant using locally sourced process automation controls and support services.
The new plant being established in Mexico required a distributed control system to operate the three primary chemical-processing areas used in nitrile production: the reaction system, distillation system and complementary services such as the supplying of fatty acids, and the steam generator system.
The facility included a Class I Division 2 hazardous area, and required secure access and visibility into all aspects of processing.
The Japanese plant would serve as the basis for the Mexican plant, but an exact replication of the facility wasn’t an option.
The Japanese plant was built around a control system from a Japanese solution provider that had minimal experience or presence in Mexico. Mexico-based systems integrator ORDI was tasked with designing and installing the automation control system in the new facility within a six-month project timeline.